Steven Van Zandt Stone In ‘Not Fade Away’
A-listers abound in the music, the true star of the film while no Hollywood heavyweights were enlisted to perform the aspiring rockers in Not Fade Away.
The screen pulsates that showcases ’60s icons James Brown, The Beatles, the Rolling Stones, The Kinks, Bo Diddley, Van Morrison and Bob Dylan.
Moby Grape, the Moody Blues, Johnny Burnette, The Rascals and the Chambers Brothers Harvest up do Lead Belly seminal bluesmen Robert Johnson and Elmore James.
Music supervisor Steven Van Zandt aimed for the stars and hit each goal, though licensing fees sucked up a chunk of the small budget of Fade. Films normally allot 2% for music; Fade shelled out 10%.
“That’s an extremely high percentage,” says Van Zandt, 62, guitarist for Bruce Springsteen’s E Street Band and creator of Little Steven’s Underground Garage show on Sirius XM satellite radio. “it is much dollar-wise, also. We invested in the area of $2.5 million. That’s where the credibility and emotional base of the story started.”
The cost tag for the roughly 50 tunes of the film might have zoomed far higher without Van Zandt’s capacity to cut prices with buddies in other bands, The Beatles and the Stones.
“I know some individuals,” he says.
He is also quite comfy with Sopranos creator David Chase, who exploited Van Zandt to play with the HBO Mob series’ Silvio Dante, then summoned him to curate sounds for his big-screen directorial debut.
“I was moved by his passion to produce this movie,” Van Zandt says. “Studios would have given him $200 million to make any movie. He opted to make this small movie about rock ‘n’ roll.”
The coming-of-age drama chronicles the fitful evolution of a New Jersey garage band, the Twylight Zones, galvanized from the British Invasion. Music plays a huge role in the characters’ lives, at the depicted climbing counterculture and in the structure of Chase’s story line.
Van Zandt, tasked with designing the Zones’ sound from 1962 to 1968, shared Chase’s musical sensibility and fixation on accuracy.
“We’re both fanatics about authenticity,” says Van Zandt. “Separately, we’re pretty serious. Forget it. We have the microphones . The wires, the guitar selections. The attention to detail is crazy.”
They diverged on a key issue: Chase refused Van Zandt’s plea to audition genuine rockers instead of actors.
“I used him to employ musicians, but he simply could not do it,” says Van Zandt, who placed the faux ring through an intensive school of rock for three months, recording analog with classic equipment. “The main 3 men had never touched tools and, in the end, they learned to play from scratch. They actually became a ring.”
Van Zandt recognized his youth in Fade, including the fireworks between aspiring rocker Douglas (John Magaro) and his estranged daddy (James Gandolfini).
“Gandolfini is playing all our fathers,” he says. “When I think about what we place those bad guys through. It was the first true generation difference. The generations were as far apart as they’d ever been in history, which was tough to survive.”
A musical flashback for boomers, Fade serves as a history lesson for later generations. Van Zandt expects that younger music lovers will be inspired by the magnificent soundtrack and budding rockers will “understand this is a craft and that you need to work in it. It looks glamorous on the surface, but greatness has to be obtained and learned.”
Fade also recalls the age of the domination of music until it blended into a wallpaper of entertainment choices that are ubiquitous.
“You get a precise image of what it had been similar to when radio was all,” Van Zandt says. “There were no video games and computers. There was less audio, and it meant a lot more. It was a basic part of the civilization, and it’s difficult to imagine getting through these teenage years without rock roll.”